How are we to regard the “efficiency experts” who would pit logic against loyalty?  Just where do you draw the line on acceptable fan behavior?  We’re talking about those who genuinely enjoy sports but who won’t watch a complete game.  When questioned they complain that they go on too long.  One need only, they insist, watch toward the end because that’s when it really counts.  These people get to the ballpark no earlier than the third inning, find double-headers a staggering waste of time, and tune in a football game only for the second half.  Certainly in a blowout they’ won’t linger a moment more than is necessary to gather up their possessions.  Does this sound familiar?  And what about their standard comment on professional basketball?  Isn’t it true, they say, that nearly all games are decided in the last few minutes?  What happens before means little.

Just who are these avid reductionists anyway?  Surely we’ve got a number of Type A personalities here.  No way they can sit still for two, three, or even four hours.  Add on those who grew up in families where pleasures were suspect and strictly limited.  Productive activities with tangible benefits – that’s what was expected of them.  The longer such people sit and watch a game the guiltier they begin to feel.  (Many probably can’t watch at all without feeling obligated to do something useful at the same time – read, paint, cut the grass.  They’re least anxious no doubt listening to a game while traveling in their cars – at least they’re getting someplace.)  Count the habitual bettors in this category.  What interest do they have in the ebb and flow of the game, the strategies or the surprises?  What’s important is the final score and of course the spread between winners and losers.  Let’s not forget those more curious than committed, the dilettantes, not the devotees.  It’s important, they believe, to look in on certain games and know the outcomes, especially if there are major happenings – Super Bowl, World Series, Wimbledon, Kentucky Derby, etc.  Such events are, after all, likely to be discussed.  They should be prepared with an opinion, an observation at the very least.

These people are merely masquerading as fans, so say the true followers of sport.  Their arguments, their explanations are hardly worth refuting.  They might just as well insist on reading only the last pages of a novel or on walking in toward the end of a movie.  Sure, the latter stages of a game are the most important.  That’s obvious, but obviously not the whole story.  What about the first-round knockout or the team that scores a bundle in the first inning, then coasts to victory?  Most disturbing about these people is that they ignore the game in its entirety, the beauty of the whole, the significant ups and downs, the rhythms, the superlative plays that can happen at any time.  Sure the emphasis should be on results, but if it’s only that, much will be lost.  From warm-ups to wrap-ups, the game, they insist, has an integrity of its own, should be viewed and understood as a whole.  It’s time well spent, an experience not to be missed.

Into which camp do you fall?  You’re not sure?  You say you came in during the middle of this discussion!

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